This is something I’ve heard in this town for 30 years now. In fact, even as I sit here trying to force myself to only use my memory I’d have to say Russell Martin has to be the most significant free agent signing.
Maybe Francisco Liriano, but let’s remember that correctly too. He was brought in here with the expectation that he used to be super good and they hoped he had a bit more juice. They didn’t expect him to be the top of the rotation starter he became.
So Russell is the only one I can really say, here’s a legit starting caliber player that other teams want, who actively chose to come here. They probably slightly overpaid for his services, but what he delivered sure made it worth every penny.
So, I get the feeling on this. They just don’t sign big name free agents. And let’s be honest, what we mean here is they don’t sign big money free agents. And right now, why would they?
That said, I’m hearing the same narrative when it comes to players like Felix Hernandez, or go ahead and insert your favorite aging starter who is clearly past his prime. The Pirates need someone who has experience, both from an inning eating standpoint, and simply having some veteran presence in that room. Someone to help Mitch Keller not carry the burden he’ll be asked to bear this season, but be there as someone who once was asked to do the same. Offer guidance, mentorship and ultimately someone who isn’t a coach to tell them what they’re dealing with isn’t exclusive to them.
If they play well, great! Maybe you move them for more prospect depth. If they don’t you let them go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The point is, players like this signing elsewhere isn’t on the same plane as swinging and missing on a Mitch Moreland (which I didn’t understand in the first place, but I digress). These are players that know their options are limited.
We hear all kinds of theories as to why this happens in Pittsburgh and here are some of my favorites. It’s too cold here, so nobody wants to play here. They don’t have a chance to win here. Pittsburgh itself is horrifically racist and therefore players of color don’t want to be here.
I’ve really heard all these, and let’s be honest, it’s really all about money.
It’s cold in 2/3 of the markets. 2/3 of the teams have zero chance to win this year. And the last one, I’m a white guy so I’ll steer clear and simply say, I sure hope not.
No, I think it’s far more simple than that. The Pirates don’t want to pay more than market value, and maybe for what they need they’ll have to. It’s a rather large assumption to make that they’ve been rejected by all these players, much more likely they didn’t even offer. This market in 2021 probably shouldn’t be the same as it’s been, but maybe getting what you need versus what is left is the right play.
Typically I’d tell you none of this matters. This team isn’t going to win this year and let’s be blunt, this likely isn’t going to be a great impact on the club. But when the GM himself mentions the want and need to bring in some veteran players to compete and the board keeps dropping names it at the very least seems like he’d rather shop from what’s left than to actively target someone and go get them.
I don’t like that from a flipping perspective, or for that matter a getting the right guy for all those veteran leadership aspects I spoke to earlier. I’d rather them target a guy and get someone worthwhile, but at this point, they’re clearly more interested in waiting, allowing desperation to force some guys into taking two way deals with NRIs to camp.
I get it, just not what I’d do.
At some point, in order to be a successful club after the build, they’ll have to patch holes. That’s when this will really matter. Will they be looking for bargains then or reclamation projects? I’m not expecting Mookie Betts, but they must be able to entice players like Corey Dickerson. Those types of players only coming here via trade depletes the system and puts them back in the same spot.
For all the hoops and tricks they’ve taken to acquire talent in the system, I’d advise they don’t deplete it to save a few bucks when the time comes.